As time progressed, I needed to wade through a few more boxes and drawers of memories. I was cleaning house and saving important stuff. Stuff may just seem like stuff, but it represents so much more. One day as I cleaned a drawer by Kim’s side of our bed, I made a discovery.
Kim was not only a prolific writer; she was a prolific note-taker, also. She had taken notes during Sunday sermons and stacked them in the top drawer of the bedside table on her side of our bed. I removed them from the drawer and, as has been my practice, I perused everything in the drawer. In this case, I walked through a multitude of notes from various Sunday sermons.
On one bulletin, the first line of her handwritten notes caught my attention: “Why does God allow pain and suffering?” I was hooked. I leaned back on my couch to continue reading. I have thought about this question a lot over the last couple of years. A lot. More than any time in my life. I’ve considered the question from various vantage points. Your mind takes you down paths, and you just can’t stay there too long. Honestly, there is a lot of mystery involved in the question and the answer.
But I read on.
Following the question above were three answers given in a sermon by Cliff Jordan, our pastor. Looking back upon my suffering loss, I can give a hearty agreement to each of these answers.
- “Your capacity to experience God is expanded when you experience pain.”
As I look at my journey, the most important takeaway has been how turning to God has expanded my capacity and trust of God. I know. It seems antithetical. And sometimes it does happen that people turn away from God. I’d seen it enough to fear it. I ran to the God of the Bible and believed what I read. Some people in grief become angry at God. Some question God. And to be clear, all these responses and more are common.
“Christ is all the more precious to them for having painfully felt the need of him.” Theodore Cuyler, God’s Light on Dark Clouds
Your capacity to experience your Father is expanded when you experience pain. You feel your need for God deeply. And your capacity to experience him is expanded.
- “Your capacity to experience grace is increased.”
As I consider my experience, I agree one hundred percent that my capacity was expanded to experience grace. I came to understand and fall in love with the word “sufficient.” We read that Paul described God’s grace as sufficient in 2 Corinthians 12:9.
“But he said to me, ’my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Weakness opens the door for power. Capacity to experience grace is expanded. You’re thirsty and receptive to God’s gift of grace, mercy, and peace.
- “Your capacity to show grace is increased.”
Pain addressed appropriately lifts your eyes to recognize the pain of others. Your capacity to give grace is multiplied. I was given more ability to offer sympathy and empathy. Your painful experience has given you renewed capacity to experience grace and renewed capacity to give grace. Grace is undeserved but given. Do not withhold grace from others. Share it liberally.
“When we live a grace-based life, we not only receive more grace, we give more grace. Aware of our weaknesses and frailties, we extend more grace to others who are failing and falling.” David Murray, Reset
Why does God allow pain and suffering? While there is mystery in this question, there are at least three helpful answers found in a drawer. Your capacity to experience God is expanded. Your capacity to experience grace is increase. And your capacity to share grace is increased.
“…we should emerge from [trouble] ready for better service and for greater usefulness than ever before.” J. R. Miller, The Ministry of Comfort